Is Death A Tragedy?

After my recent blog about Buck’s passing, I received an email from an old friend, posing a question that had been on her mind:

I find it difficult to understand why God wouldn’t graciously extend his hand to give Buck more years beyond what he had. Tragedy is something that I struggle with much in the faith. So while most would look at the scenario and say that God is good for giving Buck another 15 years of life, I look at it and say why doesn’t the good God give more? I am reading your book HE LOVES ME right now and the illustrations are helping to grow my faith. But, so often, I look at what is tragic in peoples lives, and have difficulty praising in the midst of circumstance. My propensity is to run the other direction when hard times hit and say that its proof that God’s love isn’t real.

My response: I think God may not have given more because he knows the better portion isn’t in this life. It is in the life beyond.

Would you have enjoyed 15 more years as a 15 year old? It would have seemed crazy right? God has prepared us for something so much better than what we know here. We think of a 69 year old dying as tragic, and it is for those of us who miss him, but from God’s side of things I’m sure it doesn’t look tragic at all. He’s finally brought my friend into the life he created him to live in without the distortions of the flesh or the stain of our sin. So from God and my friend’s side of this it is all glorious and our hope is that we will be joining them soon ourselves.

The tragedy is for us here now. And in the midst of that tragedy I don’t think God wants us to praise him for the tragedy, but to learn to lean into him because he’s bigger than any tragedy and can work amazing good even out of a the most horrendous things. His work still goes on. His purpose in our lives is not thwarted by the deaths of others. He still embraces us here as he continues to prepare us for the greater life he has for us all.

Our limited perspective is the problem here. We only see what’s here. Scripture says there is much wisdom in realizing that our time in this age is like the morning dew on the grass. It is brief in the grand scheme of things. It is not the whole thing, only a bit. We don’t have a clue what lies beyond the veil and how much life in this world with flesh, human ambition, limited sight suffocates that which God has really made us to be.

All of his aspirations for us, and all the healthy ones for ourselves, will never be fulfilled in this life.

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28 Comments
  1. Barb April 15, 2010 at 7:38 am

    I have just watched my Dad pass this January. He was 87 years old. By the time he passed he no longer wished to live. He was too feeble to do even the most mundane chores around the house. He was confused to the point that he could not longer pay the bills. Towards the end of his life he tried to hit and bite us as his mind wandered down paths that were fictional. There were a few brighter spots in his day when he held my mom’s hand or hugged one of our necks as we gathered our things to leave after visiting but all in all, depression was his companion. My question is this….Was God good to let him live to the ripe old age of 87 when his mind was gone and his body was spent or was God good in the case of this man who died in his middle 60’s full of life. I’m not so sure we should look at leaving this earth while we are of sound body and mind as a bad thing. I have just seen the other side of what the truly elderly have to deal with at the end of their lives and I will never see an earlier death as a bad thing that God allowed. He may have been gracious after all. We tend to think that God is good if a life is lived to their 90’s. I am tempted to say – not so. I want to celebrate LIFE not celebrate the medical advances that keep us alive long past our due time of passing.

  2. exdroid April 15, 2010 at 8:28 am

    christianity is just too serious!

    I lost my dad 19 months ago – probably unsaved and i’ll never get over it. It’s just too darned serious!

    Makes me think of the idea of ‘age of accountability’ that some people believe in – ie that before about 12 people go to heaven if they die …….if so, why don’t christians simply spare their children the risk of losing their soul – better than any revival!

  3. exdroid April 15, 2010 at 8:37 am

    And no wonder Andrea Yates killed her own children in 2001 to spare them going to hell – from some point of views she’s doing the most sane thing possible.

  4. Barb April 15, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I have just watched my Dad pass this January. He was 87 years old. By the time he passed he no longer wished to live. He was too feeble to do even the most mundane chores around the house. He was confused to the point that he could not longer pay the bills. Towards the end of his life he tried to hit and bite us as his mind wandered down paths that were fictional. There were a few brighter spots in his day when he held my mom’s hand or hugged one of our necks as we gathered our things to leave after visiting but all in all, depression was his companion. My question is this….Was God good to let him live to the ripe old age of 87 when his mind was gone and his body was spent or was God good in the case of this man who died in his middle 60’s full of life. I’m not so sure we should look at leaving this earth while we are of sound body and mind as a bad thing. I have just seen the other side of what the truly elderly have to deal with at the end of their lives and I will never see an earlier death as a bad thing that God allowed. He may have been gracious after all. We tend to think that God is good if a life is lived to their 90’s. I am tempted to say – not so. I want to celebrate LIFE not celebrate the medical advances that keep us alive long past our due time of passing.

  5. exdroid April 15, 2010 at 11:28 am

    christianity is just too serious!

    I lost my dad 19 months ago – probably unsaved and i’ll never get over it. It’s just too darned serious!

    Makes me think of the idea of ‘age of accountability’ that some people believe in – ie that before about 12 people go to heaven if they die …….if so, why don’t christians simply spare their children the risk of losing their soul – better than any revival!

  6. exdroid April 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

    And no wonder Andrea Yates killed her own children in 2001 to spare them going to hell – from some point of views she’s doing the most sane thing possible.

  7. Peter April 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    We held our son as he died a horrible death from cancer at 25 years of age. Pain? grief? You bet. BUT, in that place we found an infinitely loving, caring, gentle God who even “held” us as we held our son. To strive to understand it all through becoming God’s intellectual equal is futile; we can’t get out heads up to His level, to bring Him down to ours can only access worldly “wisdom”. Bottom line: there either is a God, or there isn’t; you either trust Him or you don’t. There IS rest in that place.
    ( Our dear son Lee died at 7:07pm on 7/7/07. Perfection, completion, grace!)

  8. Peter April 15, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    We held our son as he died a horrible death from cancer at 25 years of age. Pain? grief? You bet. BUT, in that place we found an infinitely loving, caring, gentle God who even “held” us as we held our son. To strive to understand it all through becoming God’s intellectual equal is futile; we can’t get out heads up to His level, to bring Him down to ours can only access worldly “wisdom”. Bottom line: there either is a God, or there isn’t; you either trust Him or you don’t. There IS rest in that place.
    ( Our dear son Lee died at 7:07pm on 7/7/07. Perfection, completion, grace!)

  9. calebuk2000 April 16, 2010 at 2:24 am

    Thanks Peter for sharing the beauty of your experience even in the midst of pain. I will pray for the healing of your hearts but thank you again for your words.

  10. Nancy April 16, 2010 at 4:33 am

    My brother died years ago at age 19 from a car accident. His death affected my family in ways I was not aware at age 8. Later, I wondered if God was sparing my brother (and my parents) from experiencing the Vietnam war which was heating up at the time. Well, of course that begs the question of all those who DID serve and suffer that war……what of Father’s love to them, if I was right??? Which says to me that I was not because I haven’t the wisdom of God to get a good hold on this. That leaves me again just trusting him because I don’t understand him. I know he is good, and I know he loves me, but otherwise I am clueless as to why he must be doing this or that. So I agree with Peter: “…you either trust Him or you don’t. There IS rest in that place.” Amen.

    I think that when we humans attempt to find meaning in our lives through our circumstances we miss the meaning and purpose Father God gives us just by loving us. So I try to change my inner thought from “I am suffering because of this or that…” to “I am suffering for whatever reason, and Father loves me in the midst of that suffering”.

  11. calebuk2000 April 16, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Thanks Peter for sharing the beauty of your experience even in the midst of pain. I will pray for the healing of your hearts but thank you again for your words.

  12. Wayne April 16, 2010 at 5:43 am

    exdroid,

    That’s some pretty deep water you’re swimming in there. I’m really sorry for your father’s death and I’ve heard you speak of it before with seemingly incredible guilt and and lostness. Do you think God loved your father less than you do, and won’t even in death treat him with the full love and justice that defines the Creator? Your image of God seems locked in a vengeful, religious view, that Jesus came to show us wasn’t so. I pray God will reveal himself to you in a way that swallows up your fears and hurt.

  13. ChrisH April 16, 2010 at 7:05 am

    You know Wayne you really nailed this one.

    Four years ago in the loss of my 35yr old wife God opened my eyes to see the reality of both your blog and your response to exdroid. While there was great loss for us I found just as much joy for my wife. It’s a long story, but His love was and has continued to be amazing ever since. Harsh religous doctrines that do not reflect the Heart of God serve only to seperate us from the Father who we need the most in times like these.

    Exdroid I too am sorry for your loss and I echo Wayne’s prayer for you.

  14. Nancy April 16, 2010 at 7:33 am

    My brother died years ago at age 19 from a car accident. His death affected my family in ways I was not aware at age 8. Later, I wondered if God was sparing my brother (and my parents) from experiencing the Vietnam war which was heating up at the time. Well, of course that begs the question of all those who DID serve and suffer that war……what of Father’s love to them, if I was right??? Which says to me that I was not because I haven’t the wisdom of God to get a good hold on this. That leaves me again just trusting him because I don’t understand him. I know he is good, and I know he loves me, but otherwise I am clueless as to why he must be doing this or that. So I agree with Peter: “…you either trust Him or you don’t. There IS rest in that place.” Amen.

    I think that when we humans attempt to find meaning in our lives through our circumstances we miss the meaning and purpose Father God gives us just by loving us. So I try to change my inner thought from “I am suffering because of this or that…” to “I am suffering for whatever reason, and Father loves me in the midst of that suffering”.

  15. Wayne April 16, 2010 at 8:43 am

    exdroid,

    That’s some pretty deep water you’re swimming in there. I’m really sorry for your father’s death and I’ve heard you speak of it before with seemingly incredible guilt and and lostness. Do you think God loved your father less than you do, and won’t even in death treat him with the full love and justice that defines the Creator? Your image of God seems locked in a vengeful, religious view, that Jesus came to show us wasn’t so. I pray God will reveal himself to you in a way that swallows up your fears and hurt.

  16. ChrisH April 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

    You know Wayne you really nailed this one.

    Four years ago in the loss of my 35yr old wife God opened my eyes to see the reality of both your blog and your response to exdroid. While there was great loss for us I found just as much joy for my wife. It’s a long story, but His love was and has continued to be amazing ever since. Harsh religous doctrines that do not reflect the Heart of God serve only to seperate us from the Father who we need the most in times like these.

    Exdroid I too am sorry for your loss and I echo Wayne’s prayer for you.

  17. Kathy April 16, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Two years ago I was in a hospital bed one minute I had been fine the next every joint in my body was in extreme pain. The drs. didn’t know what was going on this lasted days. Having come to know Christ years ago I was ok with dieing and just told God(yeah I told Him) it would be just fine with me to die, as soon as the words came out of my mouth that quiet voice of His said”isn’t that a bit selfish?” I had never thought of death that way before. I am great now they never did figure out what was the matter. Those words have stuck with me though, dieing is just a passage.
    Exdroid, My mom died when i was 16 I didn’t come to know who God was till I was 24 at that point I went into years of turmoil believing she was in hell. When I was 41 my Dad came to visit and as we were having lunch he told me a story my mom had told him about how she had accepted Christ at age 13 and her family had made fun of her so she kept it a secret only telling my father. All those years I had tortured myself. We don’t know everything about our parents. Now our youngest son has turned away from God I love him more than life itself and started torturing myself again but God tells me “trust me, I love him even more than you” Hope this helps

  18. Kathy April 17, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Two years ago I was in a hospital bed one minute I had been fine the next every joint in my body was in extreme pain. The drs. didn’t know what was going on this lasted days. Having come to know Christ years ago I was ok with dieing and just told God(yeah I told Him) it would be just fine with me to die, as soon as the words came out of my mouth that quiet voice of His said”isn’t that a bit selfish?” I had never thought of death that way before. I am great now they never did figure out what was the matter. Those words have stuck with me though, dieing is just a passage.
    Exdroid, My mom died when i was 16 I didn’t come to know who God was till I was 24 at that point I went into years of turmoil believing she was in hell. When I was 41 my Dad came to visit and as we were having lunch he told me a story my mom had told him about how she had accepted Christ at age 13 and her family had made fun of her so she kept it a secret only telling my father. All those years I had tortured myself. We don’t know everything about our parents. Now our youngest son has turned away from God I love him more than life itself and started torturing myself again but God tells me “trust me, I love him even more than you” Hope this helps

  19. Jo April 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    In 2003, my husband had a heart attack. He literally died in CVICU and was brought back to life. After being semi comatose for 7 days, he awoke. After he was situated in his hospital room, he asked me what happened. I cautiously told him what went on and he began to cry uncontrollably. Having read about NDE’s, I slowly asked him what he remembered. He said that he was fighting something and then he became very tired and he just gave up. He remembers looking down on someone surrounded by many doctors and nurses. He described folks in beds around what I knew was him. He described people that had left the unit days before he awoke. He said he was going down a black hall and at the end was a bright light shining around what appeared to be a door. He went for a knob to open it and he heard his dad’s voice on the other side. He called him a pet name “Hoss” and said it wasn’t his time yet. He was pulled back from the door. He wanted to go through that door, knowing he would leave his family and especially our 4 y/o grandson. He had no qualms. From that day forward, I have not feared death. As the years have passed, I have loosened my hold on life. I do not want to die, but I am not afraid. Living in the kingdom of heaven prepares you for the continuation on the other side. Things of this earth do grow strangely dim. We do not have the right to end a death, but do we have the right to extend it at all costs. I do not think so. I don’t know what the answer is.

  20. exdroid April 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    1st point – Peter – did you son die from cancer yet knew the Lord? If so, then of course it will be easier to trust God. For me it would never be a case of ‘either there is a God or there isn’t’ ….atheists are being dishonest – i can only ever be a believer or a misotheist (one who hates God honestly).

    Wayne, thank you for your words. I understand what you r saying but there are plently of passages that seem to imply that a real hell exists…However if God is just why would hell even be a bad thing?…Many orthodox christians make it seem like God sends Jesus to save us from a hell that he’s got no control over…So in some sense it can’t matter what happens. If one knows God’s salvation then great!…but if justice happens than All will end up agreeing with this outcome. Ever hear anyone say ”Go to justice!” ……If Hell is something God doesn’t want for anyone then how can it be justice if He allows anyone to go there? If it is justice for Him to allow this, then maybe we’ve got the wrong idea of hell – maybe a lot of the passages about it are not to be taken literally…..But if so, then i’m still gonna be locked into that ‘vengeful view’ that you say isn’t true.

    Kathy – my dad was a unitarian for many years, but in the last 20 yrs had no church involvment. He believed there was ‘ a God’ but never responded to my ‘witnessing’ which i gave up years ago cos it was too tiring for me….. All i could do in his last week in hospital was tell him i love him and God does too…but i was too freaking scared to ask him to confess Jesus or anything like that – i was too afraid of the answer and i felt too much pressure about it.

    My main point was that too often in the christian world we only hear ‘good testimonies’ but the reality of the whole world shows that life doesn’t end up ‘good’ for many many people.

  21. Jo April 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    In 2003, my husband had a heart attack. He literally died in CVICU and was brought back to life. After being semi comatose for 7 days, he awoke. After he was situated in his hospital room, he asked me what happened. I cautiously told him what went on and he began to cry uncontrollably. Having read about NDE’s, I slowly asked him what he remembered. He said that he was fighting something and then he became very tired and he just gave up. He remembers looking down on someone surrounded by many doctors and nurses. He described folks in beds around what I knew was him. He described people that had left the unit days before he awoke. He said he was going down a black hall and at the end was a bright light shining around what appeared to be a door. He went for a knob to open it and he heard his dad’s voice on the other side. He called him a pet name “Hoss” and said it wasn’t his time yet. He was pulled back from the door. He wanted to go through that door, knowing he would leave his family and especially our 4 y/o grandson. He had no qualms. From that day forward, I have not feared death. As the years have passed, I have loosened my hold on life. I do not want to die, but I am not afraid. Living in the kingdom of heaven prepares you for the continuation on the other side. Things of this earth do grow strangely dim. We do not have the right to end a death, but do we have the right to extend it at all costs. I do not think so. I don’t know what the answer is.

  22. exdroid April 17, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    1st point – Peter – did you son die from cancer yet knew the Lord? If so, then of course it will be easier to trust God. For me it would never be a case of ‘either there is a God or there isn’t’ ….atheists are being dishonest – i can only ever be a believer or a misotheist (one who hates God honestly).

    Wayne, thank you for your words. I understand what you r saying but there are plently of passages that seem to imply that a real hell exists…However if God is just why would hell even be a bad thing?…Many orthodox christians make it seem like God sends Jesus to save us from a hell that he’s got no control over…So in some sense it can’t matter what happens. If one knows God’s salvation then great!…but if justice happens than All will end up agreeing with this outcome. Ever hear anyone say ”Go to justice!” ……If Hell is something God doesn’t want for anyone then how can it be justice if He allows anyone to go there? If it is justice for Him to allow this, then maybe we’ve got the wrong idea of hell – maybe a lot of the passages about it are not to be taken literally…..But if so, then i’m still gonna be locked into that ‘vengeful view’ that you say isn’t true.

    Kathy – my dad was a unitarian for many years, but in the last 20 yrs had no church involvment. He believed there was ‘ a God’ but never responded to my ‘witnessing’ which i gave up years ago cos it was too tiring for me….. All i could do in his last week in hospital was tell him i love him and God does too…but i was too freaking scared to ask him to confess Jesus or anything like that – i was too afraid of the answer and i felt too much pressure about it.

    My main point was that too often in the christian world we only hear ‘good testimonies’ but the reality of the whole world shows that life doesn’t end up ‘good’ for many many people.

  23. Peter April 18, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Exdroid, some big stuff and very worthy of discussion. Did our son “know the Lord”? Well, he did not go to “church”, and he would not tick the boxes that the religious folk would require. Would he pass the “test” that Jesus applied to the thief on the cross? Yes, in our view he would (and did).
    The simple flow of logic I suggested (ie, there either is a God or there isn’t; you either trust Him or you don’t) has been useful for us. Your difficulty is obviously the second part: you have a God you cannot trust. I get that.
    Religion is very good at providing principles, hurdles, measures and “certainty” (even recipes for successful “witnessing”). A literal interpretation of scripture has always been a useful tool for the religious. An alternative is to view scripture as pointing us to Jesus. It is the person Jesus who reveals to us the true nature and identity of His Father. Jesus then points us to the the Holy Spirit who, He says, will teach us (each one of us) the truth in all things. Maybe then, rather than getting bound up in the gnarly bits of scripture (often the bits loved by religious folk), it would be better seek God Himself on it. We are after-all, offered a personal relationship with Him. He can handle the odd “please explain”; but the answer will often be an unexpected one, and will require a degree of openness, faith, hope and trust.

  24. Peter April 18, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Exdroid, some big stuff and very worthy of discussion. Did our son “know the Lord”? Well, he did not go to “church”, and he would not tick the boxes that the religious folk would require. Would he pass the “test” that Jesus applied to the thief on the cross? Yes, in our view he would (and did).
    The simple flow of logic I suggested (ie, there either is a God or there isn’t; you either trust Him or you don’t) has been useful for us. Your difficulty is obviously the second part: you have a God you cannot trust. I get that.
    Religion is very good at providing principles, hurdles, measures and “certainty” (even recipes for successful “witnessing”). A literal interpretation of scripture has always been a useful tool for the religious. An alternative is to view scripture as pointing us to Jesus. It is the person Jesus who reveals to us the true nature and identity of His Father. Jesus then points us to the the Holy Spirit who, He says, will teach us (each one of us) the truth in all things. Maybe then, rather than getting bound up in the gnarly bits of scripture (often the bits loved by religious folk), it would be better seek God Himself on it. We are after-all, offered a personal relationship with Him. He can handle the odd “please explain”; but the answer will often be an unexpected one, and will require a degree of openness, faith, hope and trust.

  25. debbie May 12, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    “He’s finally brought my friend into the life he created him to live in without the distortions of the flesh or the stain of our sin. So from God and my friend’s side of this it is all glorious and our hope is that we will be joining them soon ourselves”

    can you tell me why, if this is true, that it wouldn’t be better to just commit suicide? and I’m not being flippant, I really struggle with this

    for those of us who have had more than our share of struggles in this world – born into extremely abusive families, living on the streets, etc – who live with so much damage and pain, from others and from our own bad choices – who are just exhausted and more than ready to be done and go to heaven — why isn’t it ok to die to this world?

  26. debbie May 12, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    “He’s finally brought my friend into the life he created him to live in without the distortions of the flesh or the stain of our sin. So from God and my friend’s side of this it is all glorious and our hope is that we will be joining them soon ourselves”

    can you tell me why, if this is true, that it wouldn’t be better to just commit suicide? and I’m not being flippant, I really struggle with this

    for those of us who have had more than our share of struggles in this world – born into extremely abusive families, living on the streets, etc – who live with so much damage and pain, from others and from our own bad choices – who are just exhausted and more than ready to be done and go to heaven — why isn’t it ok to die to this world?

  27. Wayne May 13, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Debbie, we probably all have days where we wonder that, some more seriously than others. I doubt you really are, but if you or anyone else is really contemplating suicide I’d recommend that you get help IMMEDIATELY. At it’s root it is an incredibly selfish act because of the deep hurt it causes the significant people in your life. As to your question, Scripture indicates that how we live in this age and experience God and his healing even in the face of horrible trauma or abuse, is a big part of our story. Yes a day is coming when all of that will finally be done away with, but in the meantime, for us to better the world we live in with our own personal healings and our helping others into life and freedom is an incredibly noble and humanizing experience. To know him in the depth of our sufferings is also a wonderful part of this journey. The day of our departure lies in the hands of the Father, who has numbered all of our days; it doesn’t lie in our own discretion to do as we want. Knowing him even in the pains of this age brings joy and peace not only in our own freedom but becoming part of the freedom of others… I think suicide would be the opposite of all that.

  28. Wayne May 13, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Debbie, we probably all have days where we wonder that, some more seriously than others. I doubt you really are, but if you or anyone else is really contemplating suicide I’d recommend that you get help IMMEDIATELY. At it’s root it is an incredibly selfish act because of the deep hurt it causes the significant people in your life. As to your question, Scripture indicates that how we live in this age and experience God and his healing even in the face of horrible trauma or abuse, is a big part of our story. Yes a day is coming when all of that will finally be done away with, but in the meantime, for us to better the world we live in with our own personal healings and our helping others into life and freedom is an incredibly noble and humanizing experience. To know him in the depth of our sufferings is also a wonderful part of this journey. The day of our departure lies in the hands of the Father, who has numbered all of our days; it doesn’t lie in our own discretion to do as we want. Knowing him even in the pains of this age brings joy and peace not only in our own freedom but becoming part of the freedom of others… I think suicide would be the opposite of all that.

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